In homeland of mother Russia, you don’t choose beer; beer chooses you. This seems to be the case with North Coast Brewing Company’s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. The name alone sounds intense, but when you look at the artwork on the brew, it certainly captures the religious zealot, Grigori Rasputin, in all of his glory. How can you ignore this man on the label when you take a trip down the beer isle of you local package store? His eyes will follow you, and once you make contact: game over. Not only will you feel a calling and an obligation to buy this beer, but you will also immediately go home and say 17 Hail Marys and 4 Our Fathers for Rasputin to absolve you of all sins. If that doesn’t work, be prepared to switch faiths and join the Russian Orthodoxy. The beer looks intimidating, and it tastes just as brash.
It pours darker than your ex-girlfriend’s soul and leaves a head that is tanner than the leather of a Mercedes Benz. Retention? Uh, winning. Look at the pictures, the head is a full inch out of the pint glass and it left behind a thick and very dark lacing. The aroma coming off of it was that of roasted coffee, chocolate, and a hint of molasses. Very appealing and what you can expect out of an intense Russian imperial stout; much more complex than an Irishman’s Guinness. I was very excited to try it out and it certainly delivered. It tasted very roasty, but not burnt and also carried over some of the sweetness from the molasses smell without being too syrupy. Mouth-feel was very thick, again not as easy to drink as a Guinness. If you have two of these, mom will yell at you for spoiling you dinner – it will fill you up. For being 9% ABV, I was pleasantly shocked at how the flavor of the ingredients popped out at you rather than the alcohol. Other imperials miss the boat on this, but OR was brewed with flavor in mind, and the high ABV was just the result. You have to man up for this beer though; if you feel that a Guinness or even a Sam Smith Oatmeal is a little too much for your tastes, you better bypass it.
I am confident in saying that your average Russian would approve of this beer. It’s flavor characteristics and heartiness make it perfect for a 23 degree January night. Stoke up the fire and hibernate with a four-pack of this guy. Overall, the beer gets an A for its big flavor, hearty taste, and kick ass name. As a caution, you may begin to root for the USSR while watching Miracle on Ice.